Train Like a Champion: A Q&A with Spartan Rose Wetzel
We all want to know: What makes the best-of-the-best Spartan athletes out there tick? How do they keep their edge? In our Train Like A Champ series, we dig into the details of the training, nutrition, mindset, and more that keeps our most epic athletes on top.
Rose Wetzel (@runningrosie), 37, is a wife, mother, and steadfast Spartan competitor that is all-in on making the podium at the World Championship this year. Between juggling the duties of family life and working with clients, she’s still relentlessly logging in the training hours, but this year’s big focus: her mental game.
Wetzel shares how competition goes far deeper than winning, why mindful eating is the best way to approach food, and how OCR makes us all better humans.
Check out what a FULL week of Spartan Rose Wetzel's Workouts Looks Like
A Q&A With Spartan Rose Wetzel
SPARTAN RACE: When and why did you enter competitive sports?
ROSE WETZEL: Growing up, racing [running] provided me a way to be unique and feel special amidst a real large group of children. It also gave me a sense of confidence in high school that allowed me to break out of the insecure shell that I was in and really blossom into a young woman. When I won the first 800m state championship as a sophomore, I distinctly remember my name being called out at the school auditorium and walking down the steps and having my entire high school of 1000 people cheering for me.
That was this pivotal point for me that made me realize that I was special and had a unique talent that I could somehow, in some way step into myself and contribute to the world. Being state champion a couple of times in high school opened up doors for me to have a scholarship to Georgetown. All of that allowed me to expand my mind, not just intellectually as a student, but also as a human. Georgetown was a ripe place in D.C. for international exposure, intellectual debates, and allowed me to meet people from all over the world.
I feel like as an athlete, especially in this world of social media, being able to understand people, and society, and how to connect with them and hopefully inspire them, gives me an opportunity in my own little humble way to make the world a better place.
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Don’t let my fierce race face fool you; deep down at every race, I’m like a little kid, giddy with excitement to be there. 😁 . Why? 😊 . Because I view each race as an incredible privilege, and I stand on every starting line with immense gratitude - thankful to be alive and healthy, to love and be loved in return. ❤️ . How did I develop this mindset? . As a teenager watching two of my brothers battle intense mental illnesses, and doing daily paper routes with my eight siblings to help make ends meet, racing was like a vacation from a sometimes stressful childhood... . Pile on people giving me hugs and high fives from the first day I ever raced - on, and it’s become a steady source of joy for me for well over half my life, as it fulfills not only a sense of personal accomplishment, but even more important to me, a connection with others. ❤️ . On my way to Utah today for the last big race of the U.S. National Series, and I’m beyond excited! 😊 Who will I get to see there?!
SR: How about OCR itself?
RW: There’s something much deeper to my competitive drive than just winning. I love a good sprint finish, and the thrill of racing, and the adrenaline rush, especially with obstacle course racing because you're running then there are these obstacles. I feel as though my mind is forced to be so engaged that I'm not able to think about the daily stresses that might otherwise permeate my mind at 9 o'clock on Saturday morning. I'm out there, hair flying in the wind, elbow to elbow with other strong competitors who are there to make sure if I win I have to work for it and it's something that I can be proud of.
And people cheering you on; it's really a neat feeling to have that many humans, often strangers, directing positive energy at you. I wish I could bottle up that positive energy and gift it to all the depressed people in the world.
SR: What are you focused on right now?
RW: I'm working on my uphill game and my mental game because there's a lot of power in the mind. I'm reading books on sports psychology and working a lot with my husband, Tim. He does sports psychology and is a great asset to have.
Related: Spartan's 5 Toughest Obstacles—And How To Train For Them
SR: What inspires you?
RW: Like I said, it’s much more than just the competition. I've run 300, maybe even 400 races at this point in my life. If getting anything less than first place denotes losing than I've lost over 200 races in my life. So, if it was all about winning I would have quite a long time ago.
I want to win, sure, but I want to expand my sphere of influence which allows me to have a platform for things I'm passionate about like breaking down the stigma of mental illness or empowering little girls to live a life where they stand up for themselves.
I think what’s gotten me to last as long as I have as a competitive athlete for over two decades is the fact that I have this deeper meaning that goes much beyond winning. I enjoy striving to be my best as an athlete and that oozes into my career as a personal trainer, and my ability to be the best sister, daughter, partner, mom, all those different parts of my identity. I think that makes us all better humans because when we're pursuing things that we find meaningful and we’re able to spread it to other people, and lift them up, and empower them.
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Here’s a good lung and leg strength-building workout you can quickly do in a gym if you ever stuck indoors or in a time crunch.... 👍 . After a solid warmup, do: 👇 3 min treadmill tempo run———————- 12 Lunges (6 each side) with 12 lbs.——— 3 min stationary bike tempo——————- 12 Lunges with 6 lbs.—————————— 3 min treadmill tempo run——————— 12 Lunges: semi-fast, no weight————— 3 min stationary bike tempo—————— 12 Lunges: very fast, no weight————— 3 min treadmill tempo run——————— . Thank you, @callhobie, for giving me this workout; @mydharma, for capturing a chunk of it on film; and @rallysportboulder peeps, for kindly making space for me to get my lunges in. 😊
SR: How would you describe your approach to food and nutrition?
RW: Over the years, I’ve learned to pay attention to how food makes me feel. I have zero restrictions, but I do gravitate towards that make me feel good, and away from things that make me feel bad. You could call it mindful nutrition. I’ll eat something, then 20 minutes later, close my eyes and ask myself, "How do I feel?" “Do I feel like I got good energy from that food or do I feel like it’s just sitting in my stomach or making my pores feel kind of greasy?” Do I feel energetic, or do I feel lethargic?”
SR: What foods make you feel great?
I try to always make sure I have fat, protein, and carbohydrates in everything I'm eating every time I eat because then I'm less likely to have cravings. It’s usually oatmeal in the morning with the fixings: maple syrup, chia seeds, and some almond milk. But basically it's a lot of oatmeal, a lot of potatoes, rice, and granola. And then I try to eat as many vegetables as I can. Something green and leafy every day and then something that's more colorful like peppers or carrots.
I'm prone to anemia, so I do eat meat. Even if I wanted to be a vegetarian for other reasons like the environment, or spiritual, or financial reasons, I need to get iron into my system and eating meat is by far been the best way that I can do it. But overall, I try to give my body a little bit of everything throughout the day so that I'm never hungry and never full. That's what works for me.
SR: As a personal trainer, how do you help your clients with this?
Everyone's different. Instead of saying, "Don't have this. Don't have that.” It's more like: you can eat what you want, but it's going to give you varying levels of energy. And if at the end of the day your goal is to be able to work out, feel good; then pay attention to how you feel after you eat particular foods. That goes for the amount too. If you don't eat enough you're not going to have good energy, but if you eat too much you might feel lethargic. So, find the amount that feels good.
Related: Train Like Spartan Champ Alyssa Hawley for a Week
SR: What does your nutrition look like around your races or workouts?
I typically eat a Clif bar twice a day. After my workout it’s usually the chocolate with peanut butter one and almond milk, then the blueberry crisp one in the evening.
Juggling training with both parenting and my personal training career means I'm motivated to take the absolute best possible care of my body. In order to do this, I start each morning taking MitoQ, a powerful mitochondria-targeted COQ10 supplement that ensures I'm powering my cells, and therefore my body, for optimal energy throughout the day.
PurePower CBD, my other supplement secret, provides a crucial cornerstone to my recovery. With products combining CBD and botanicals, PurePower improves everything from my sleep to general muscle soreness, in a healthy and holistic way.
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Here it is - another quick and healthy recipe for your on-the-go lifestyle! My Cashew Butter Strawberries ‘n’ Cream Smoothie tastes like strawberry pie in a glass. 😊 Try it out and let me know what you think! (For the full @spartanrace Kitchen clip, click the link in my bio above.) 👆 Thank you, @clifbar, for giving me a chance to share my favorite recipes! 😁
SR: Speaking of recovery, what does your recovery protocol look like?
RW: I don't know that I do anything too fancy, but I do have a variety of tools in my toolbox. I do a lot at home, I have my own little cupping set. I'll put my feet up and use yoga-toes to help spread them so I can get good traction under them when I'm running.
My lower back sometimes gets really tight because I had a baby and I didn't have any core strength for a while so I'll sit with a heating pad on my lower back. Sometimes I’ll use something like the TENS Unit, then afterward, I'll put lotion on my legs and do some cupping to facilitate blood flow. Maybe I'll also have compression socks on after I take the yoga toes off and take an ice bath.
I foam roll almost every day, and sometimes get massage therapy or physical therapy which has dry needling involved.
Sleep is very important to me. My job as an athlete and personal trainer is flexible, so I nap every afternoon when my daughter naps. I listen to a meditation app and take a snoozer with my eye patch on. That's a big part of recovery for me and with my schedule, it’s a real luxury.
Related: Train Like a Champ: Q&A with Rebecca Hammond
SR: How would you say Spartan Racing carried over into your other parts of your life?
RW: A lot. The physical strength has literally helped me, I mean, carrying my 25-pound sleeping daughter, and the diaper bag, and my gym bag. Just the fact that I’ve lifted weights for the past two decades helps me get stuff done.
But also the mental toughness and the ability to pivot and adapt. Especially as an obstacle course racer, things come up, but when I'm so engrossed in the pursuit of this goal and race, it’s like a vacation for my mind. All the stresses of everyday life go out the door.
For instance, my husband got cancer three years ago. A super healthy guy in body, mind, and spirit. We never saw it coming. He had a 12-hour surgery, was out of work, recovering, tubes hanging out. I mean, it was just rough.
Then, even though things like depression run in my family, I wasn't planning to get postpartum depression. Fortunately, it didn't ever get super bad because I had a really supportive partner in Tim, a really good listener, and just an awesome human, but also because of my career as an athlete. I was forced to go out and run every day, whether I wanted to or not. I think getting those endorphins in helps propel me psychologically to a better place, too. Everything could have definitely been worse and I think that athletics helped me with that.
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Constant work in progress over here. 😊 . Whenever I catch myself falling into the trap of “I’ll be happy when” mentality (you know, like when people say things like, “I’ll be happy when I find a good job, or find true love”), I remind myself to stop and be grateful for the things I have right now, in this moment, like this awesome baby, this gorgeous view, and good health. (Oh, and true love.) ❤️ . I’m sure there’s a balance between striving for things in life to be better (whatever that means for each of us) and being truly grateful for what we have/how things are now - I just haven’t *quite* perfected it yet. 😅